Sunday, 17 January 2010

The key is, to not think of death as an end, but as more of a very effective way to cut down on your expenses

No 301 - Love and Death
Director - Woody Allen

I humbly apologise - I saw the this film (and indeed Clockwork Orange) ages ago and haven't had the time to write up my blogs. A few days have passed so these may be briefer and far more rambly blogs (as the film isn't completely fresh in my mind - I've watched an entire series of Glee)

I don't know much about Woody Allen's back canon of work, although I feel I have been saying that about a lot of directors, maybe I'm not as much of a geek as I thought I was. I did know that his work was about the neurotic New York schtick in the city of New York. I did not expect a period piece about the Russians planning to assassinate Napoleon. And yet, throughout this Allen plays the same role, the neurotic, Jewish, New Yorker and somehow it works. In fact, throughout the period drama, Allen litters it with 70's Americana such as the Jive Talking Black Cliche Drill Sergent in the Russian Army. The deliberate anachronisms have been used in other period films, and when handled well it works as a funny aside or irreverent aside, however it could shatter the world of the film. Here they are handled exceedingly well and it is just part of Allen's weird little period world he has built.

It is not just the world that is a bit strange, the whole film borders on the absurd. Especially the levels of comedy which flit throughout.
The scenes of war are shown either as a scary place full of explosions or as an opportunity for Allen to try out some slapstick humour. See him be shot out of cannons as he tries to hide, see his farcical assassination attempts. It is almost reminiscent of the stunts and acts that the classic silent comedians would try.
Yet here it is effortlessly mixed with wordy discussions on morality (Judgment of any system, or a priori relationship or phenomenon exists in an irrational, or metaphysical, or at least epistemological contradiction to an abstract empirical concept such as being, or to be, or to occur in the thing itself, or of the thing itself. ) which are ridiculous in both their sincerity and the fact that they seem to emerge from nowhere, and highbrow film pastiches (I spotted several Battleship Potemkin references and the end sequence where Woody dances with death in a tiny procession directly mimics the Seventh Seal - I wouldn't be surprised to learn there are more).

However, the real comedy, just comes from Woody Allen's delivery and from his nervous rambling monologues and voice overs. The film itself is a treat. It is wonderful to listen to Allen's story telling, and the bizarre way he manages to seduce incredibly pretty ladies (here both Diane Keaton (Allen's most famous muse, I believe) and Olga Georges-Picot) - I imagine it is through his excellent anecdotal skills.
The story may be bonkers, the setting may be unbelievable and the characters my weird sex obsessed caricatures but Woody Allen's story telling just makes it a lovely thing to watch.

And it is made all the better by ending with a cameo from none other than Jessica Harper - My favourite 70's actress.

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